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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 48, November 19, 2011

Reviving Universal PDS: A Step Towards Food Security

Monday 21 November 2011, by Suranjita Ray

An unprecedented economic growth during the last decade has also seen increasing malnutrition, hunger and starvation amongst certain sections of society. India ranks 66 in the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO’s) World Hunger Index of 88 countries (Inter-national Food Policy Research Institute). More than 200 million people in this country are denied the right to food. One-third of all underweight children (57 million) in the world due to lack of adequate nutrition are in India. It has one of the highest rates of child under-nutrition in the world. (Haddad, 2011: 11; Ram, 2010: 10) We see poor life expectancy at birth which is 64.4 per cent, the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) is 50 per 1000, the mortality rate of children less than five years of age is 66 per cent, and two out of three women are anaemic.

While China has met its goal a few years ago by halving its 1990 underweight rate, India is expected to reach its Millennium Development Goals’ (MDGs’) nutrition indicator by 2043. (Ibid.) The failure to secure basic needs to its citizens has led to discomfort with the development strategies, which is documented in the Human Development Reports, Social Development Reports and Development Reports of various States.

It has been realised that higher economic growth and Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) do not necessarily reflect the actual living conditions of a majority of the people. Therefore the rights-based approach of the state focuses on food security, attainment of health, education, life expectancy, income, access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities. Special attention to the weaker sections has been prioritised in the development agenda to reduce poverty, hunger, inequalities and disparities.

In times of rising food prices, reviving the universal Public Distribution System (PDS) has been the most important demand and urgent need of the people. The ‘Right to Food Campaign’, public hearings, people’s rights forums, move-ments, organisations, groups and individual activists argue for the right to subsidised food for both the Below Poverty Line (BPL) as well as Above Poverty Line (APL) households. The PDS, which guarantees at least a minimum amount of foodgrains at a subsidised price, is one of the plausible reliefs to the poor as well as the not-so-poor.

The intensification of hunger, malnutrition and distress with an excess of buffer stocks of foodgrains in the Food Corporation of India’s (FCI’s) godowns, and tonnes of damaged/ rotten grains being destroyed despite millions of starving population not only illustrates the worst form of paradox but is also the most inhumane and unethical experience. (Ray, 2011: 20) This has led to the intervention of Courts, and the need for a universal PDS alongside its decentralisation has been brought to the fore of the debates on the Food Security Bill. The Supreme Court’s direction in May 2011 to release five million tonnes of foodgrains immediately to the poorest 150 districts is significant given the high rate of malnutrition and gravity of the problem. This order mandated immediate action against mass hunger. It stated that as a one-time measure it is absolutely imperative in the larger public interest to direct the Centre to reserve another five million tonnes of foodgrains to the 150 poorest districts or the extremely poor and vulnerable sections of our society. (Venkatesan, 2011:1) In fact, the findings and suggestions of some of the studies are important to look forward to the successful functioning of the PDS and to prevent situations of scarcity amidst plenty that have drawn the attention of the nation and international fora in recent years.

PDS: Success and Failure

A recent study by Reetika Khera, Jean Dreze and others show some signs of revival of the PDS and its success in a few States. The study finds that between 2004-05 and 2007-08, the proportion of households benefiting from the PDS has progre-ssively risen from about a quarter of rural households, that is, 27 per cent, to just over one-third, that is, 35 per cent. There has been an increase in the take-off from the PDS from six to 18 per cent in Uttar Pradesh, from 25 to 47 per cent in Chhattisgarh, and from 40 to 59 per cent in Kerala and from 22 to 36 per cent in Orissa. In Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu the access to the PDS was high to start with—81, 69 and 88 per cent respectively. In Chhattisgarh, the increase was five times, from 600 grams to 3.2 kg per month. The ration shops are open regularly during the first week of every month and most people buy their full quota of 35 kg at the right price. Corruption and leakages have come down from 58 to 27 per cent in Uttar Pradesh and from 76 to 50 per cent in Orissa. (Khera, 2011: 4) In 2007 the PDS was extended to 80 per cent of rural households well beyond the Planning Commission’s poverty estimate at 45 per cent. Further, many States have also reduced the PDS prices below the Centre’s prices. The study finds much of the revival because of the renewed political interest in the PDS manifested in an expansion of PDS coverage and a reduction in the PDS prices. (Ibid.)

The survey of 1200 randomly-selected BPL households in nine sample States—Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh—confirms substantial improve-ments in the PDS across the country despite the inter-State variations. (Dreze and Khera, 2011: 10) Both the PDS survey and 66th NSS (despite the uncertain accuracy of the data) add to the growing evidence of steady improvements of the PDS in recent years despite high rates of diversion. It is significant to note that broad coverage strengthens public pressure for a functional PDS. (Ibid.) In Tamil Nadu the PDS is universal and everyone has a ration card. In some States the PDS have included larger number of population and not just the BPL families such as the tribal and women headed families in Chhattisgarh; tribal, Dalit and all families of fisherpersons in Kerala (Karat, 2009: 10); and in Andhra Pradesh the coverage excludes only those who are in government jobs. (Dreze, 2011: 9) States that have moved towards universal PDS have done better in increasing off-takes and reducing leakages. (Parsai, 2011c: 14)

Therefore reviving the universal PDS is certainly a step towards food security. Several studies find that ever since the PDS was targeted (TPDS) in several States in 1997, it has not only resulted in excluding the needy but has also failed to benefit the targets. Besides lack of storage facilities, one of the reasons offered for the paradoxical situation of rotting of food-grains in the FCI godowns is lack of purchasing power of the poor to buy subsidised foodgrains resulting in poor off-takes. This has also led to diversion of foodgrains to the other regions benefiting the rich and also the emergence of a new beneficiary class—the traders, middlemen and moneylenders.

A study of four villages—Sapmundi and Tara-gaon in Thuamul Rampur block of Kalahandi district and Kirejhola and Chikelchuan in Boden block of Nuapada district—in 2008-09 show that the TPDS, which aimed at (i) providing production incentive to farmers through adequate remunerative prices, protecting the marginal and small farmers from the vulner-abilities of market imperfections by imparting price stability, and (ii) providing foodgrains at subsidised prices, failed on both the fronts. The study finds that out of 100 households, the PDS has not benefited a single landless household. (Mohanty, Ray, Trivedi and Sukumar, 2010: 233) The findings are similar in Bhojpur district in Bihar and Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh. (Ibid.) In the study villages of Kalahandi, only 30 to 35 per cent amongst the marginal and small landholding households benefited partially from the PDS. The essential commodities supplied through the PDS are insufficient in quantity and poor in quality. Around 45 per cent households stated lack of purchasing power and 29 per cent complained of lack of availability of rice in the scheduled time for not benefiting from the scheme. (Ibid.; also see Ray, 2003: 29-30) Therefore alongside universal PDS, the purchasing power of the poor needs to be increased.

The PDS, which aimed to keep out the middlemen, contractors and traders, practically operate through them.1 The study reveals that the private wholesale traders, acting as purchasing agents for the government carry out procurement of paddy. (Also see Misra and Meher, 1997; Samal, 1998: 62-70; Samal and Jena, 1998; Orissa Development Report 2003: 260) There are studies which show that Kalahandi was not a food surplus generating district as it is often referred to, and its contribution to the FCI came from the sale of the produce, which was taken away from mostly the marginal and small farmers by the moneylenders, traders and landlords. It is under-consumption, distress sale, and lack of purchasing power besides other reasons which bring one-fourth of food crops to the FCI. In the course of agrarian change, development of a large part of trade in grains siphoned off annually substantial quantity of paddy and cereal production of the district resulting in the disappearance of domestic stocks and rise in prices of foodgrains. When prices of foodgrains rise, certain social groups and comm-unities become victims of such food crisis owing to differential drop in their purchasing power. They are subject to exploitation by money-lenders and traders, and distress sale of labour and bondage prevalent for a long time impoverishes them to the extent of losing their land.

The sale of produce to the state is also through the agents of rice mills that legitimises the transactions between the peasant and purchasing agents. The regional marketing cooperative societies play a very negligible role. In the absence of direct procurement by the FCI, the farmers are compelled to accept the prices offered by the traders and middlemen that are lower than the FCI price. In addition, the price also varies across the size class of the farmers. The traders also undervalue their procurement so that they submit a lesser share to the FCI and export the rest to the urban centres of Raipur, Sambalpur and Rourkela where they get a higher price. (Pradhan, 2000) In addition, the rice deposited by the traders with the FCI is of inferior quality. The coverage of the distribution network is very limited and concentrated in certain pockets of the district. Though the findings of the study in Balasore, Kandhamal, Mayurbhanj, and Sambalpur, based on a sample of 600 rural households, by the Operational Research Group (ORG) Centre for Social Research on the Evaluation of the Targeted Public Distribution System and Antodaya Anna Yojana for the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution suggest that physical access to the PDS in Orissa is quite satisfactory as 61.4 per cent of ration card holders in rural Orissa had a ration shop within their village and another 30.3 per cent within a distance of two km (Orissa Human Development Report 2004: 60), the KBK (Kalahandi, Bolangir, Koraput) experience reveals that the Fair Price Shops (FPS) do not open regularly and are located far away from the villages resulting in less accessibility of the villagers in the interiors. (See also Ray, 2003: 29-30, 2004: 228-230) During our earlier visit to a few villages in the two Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) Blocks, that is, Thuamul Rampur and Lanjigarh in Kalahandi, the villagers stated that the PDS Mobile Van was quite irregular and even at times there was an interval of more than two months. Corruption and leakages are rampant thus preventing the beneficiaries to receive their due share of rice and kerosene.

THE tribals benefited the least from the PDS as they mostly consume minor millets. The specificities of the dietary habits of the local people are not taken into consideration. Since food requirements and food habits for different sections of society vary across regions, communities, age-groups, caste, class and gender, it is important to include minor millets such as raggi, jowar, bajra, other pulses and oil besides wheat and rice in the PDS basket, which has been limited only to cereals in most of the States. (Ray, 2010a: 24 and 2010b: 23) This is an important suggestion in the proposed Food Security Bill. (See also Swaminathan, 2009:13)2 Even for the non-tribals, the allotment of rice, which constitutes the staple diet, is less than the required quota. The household quota from the FPS was to be purchased once at a time, and many living on the margins of subsistence fail to arrange for sufficient cash to buy their quota and eventually fail to meet their requirements from the PDS. In effect, therefore cheap food badly needed in the countryside is diverted to the cities. While the rural poor continue to lack sufficient food at affordable prices to ensure adequate calorie intakes throughout the year, the rich, who can afford to pay more, continue to consume cheap food. (Also see Jayal, 1999: 43) Therefore, in practice the intervention of the state in distribution of food favours the rich mostly belonging to the upper castes.

A study by Kirit S. Parikh shows that in States like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa, where the bulk of the rural poor are concentrated, 98 per cent of the rural population did not make any purchase from the PDS. The benefits of the PDS actually went to richer households in the rural areas. (Shankar, 1997 also cited in Orissa Development Report 2003: 260) When the poor have no money to buy ration commodities, they often mortgage their ration cards due to chronic poverty resulting in limited success of the PDS. (Mooij, 1999; also cited in Mishra, 2001: 255) The study shows that the faulty implementation of the PDS has facilitated the emergence of a new class comprising of traders, contractors, private retailers, big landowners and moneylenders, who benefit from the PDS.

Procedural delays also affect the work of the panchayats (interview with social workers). The State of Orissa had acknowledged the hold of contractors both in procurement of grain and the provision of relief (Rangasami, 2002: 18) and thus has failed to exercise monopoly control of grain distribution. (Harriss, 1988: 158) Though under the Orissa Public Distribution System Control Order 2002, instructions have been given to all the District Collectors to allow the BPL beneficiaries to lift their quota on instalment basis and to open the fair price shops during the stipulated period, the study finds violations of such orders. Despite the amendment in the PDS Order to sell the essential commodities to the ration cardholders strictly as per the retail price fixed by the government and formation of Vigilance Committees to monitor the functioning of the PDS at each stage, leakages are a major cause for failure of the PDS. (See also Orissa Human Development Report 2004: 58)

The two public hearings organised by the Right to Food Campaign in October 2002 in Kalahandi and Balangir to learn about the actual functioning of basic needs programmes, also had similar findings. The villagers complained that lack of purchasing power is a major cause for their inability to buy rice from the PDS outlets. This was also one of the major findings during the visit in 2006-07 to a few Gram Panchayats (GPs) such as Mohulpatna GP, Dumerpadar GP, Jubrajpur GP, Badchatrang GP, Karlapat GP and Nakrundi Gp in Thuamul Rampur Block and Biswanathpur GP, Malijubang GP, Bejipur GP, Lanjigarh GP and Chatrapur GP in Lanjigarh Block. The poor tribals of many villages did not have Rs 2 to buy rice that was available through the Mobile Van. In addition, the low quality of the PDS rice, fake entries in the ration cards, and non-availability of the BPL rice are other constraints. (Right to Food Campaign, 2002, also see Orissa Human Development Report 2004: 56)

Need for Reforms

THUS reviving the universal PDS along with major reforms to monitor its implementation is important. Universal or non-targeted PDS is one of the suggestions to the proposed draft on the right to food. Those who are put outside the PDS must be included. It is important to distribute food on an individual basis as in Tamil Nadu. The existing schemes should continue such as the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Mid-Day Meal (MDM) and Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) but certain changes need to be incorporated to make these effective. (Also see Khera, 2009: 40-43; Ray, 2010a and 2010b) The draft Food Security Bill has come in for severe criticism as the government has reduced the National Advisory Council’s (NAC’s) proposal of 90 per cent coverage of the rural population to 75 per cent (with a minimum of 46 per cent households as priority) and 50 per cent in urban India. The ceiling on the number of eligible poor households is opposed and challenged as lakhs of people holding APL cards will be excluded from the PDS. (Karat, 2011b: 8; Parsai, 2011a: 15 and 2011b: 1) The Planning Commission’s statement that the poverty estimates will not be used to impose any ceiling on the number of households to be included in different programmes is a welcome decision. (See also Parsai, 2011d: 1)

The proposed National Food Security Bill needs revision. The individual based quota system of seven kg per person will end up punishing poor families with fewer children. (Karat, 2011b: 8) This will result in a cut on the present quota of 35 kg for families with less than five members. Brinda Karat argues that it would have been fairer to have kept the allotted amount at 35 kg and increased the quota by a certain amount over an average of five members per family. For the APL section it is worse as it is just three kg per person. While the farmers demand to raise the Minimum Support Price (MSP), this contradicts with the interest of the consumers in lower MSP. (Ibid.) The Bill is silent on distribution of pulses, millets and oil under the PDS as it interprets food security only in terms of distribution of cereals and cooked food. (See also Parsai, 2011a: 15) The widening of the food basket by including nutri-cereals along with rice and wheat is important in the Food Security Bill. (Swaminathan, 2011b: 12)

The introduction of cash transfers to the targeted beneficiaries in lieu of foodgrain entitlements in tune with the recommendations made by the World Bank has been criticised in times of rising inflation. It would pave the way for the entry of organised retail into the country. Cash transfers ‘would put people at the mercy of food retailers and cartels which could lead to greater corruption than the projected leakages in the PDS apart from putting the farmers at risk’. (Parsai, 2011a: 15; see also Right to Food Campaign’s open letter to the Prime Minister, 2011) This will discourage interest in procurement and safe storage of foodgrains. (Swaminathan, 2011b: 12) The Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan (RRAA), which recently undertook a 21-day-long yatra in 48 slums across nine districts of the Capital, stated that the survey found 91.4 per cent of respondents preferred the PDS to cash transfers. (The Hindu, 2011: 4) The link of right to food with aadhar, a unique identification system based on biometrics information, for proper targeting under this Act, would address impersonation, while the main problem of the PDS’ corruption is leakages and diversion to private traders. (Karat, 2011b: 8, Parsai, 2011a: 15) It is important to see production, procu-rement, storage and distribution as an integrated process in order to address the issues of food and nutrition security. M.S. Swaminathan focuses on the importance to organise a national grid of grain storages starting with storage at the farm level in well-designed bins and extending to rural godowns and regional ultra-mod silos to ensure that post-harvest losses are minimised or eliminated to ensure that food safety is ensured. (Swaminathan, 2011a: 10) Thus, alongside the universal PDS, reforms for an expanded and decentralised procurement and distribution are important.

The steering group of the Right to Food Campaign emphasises an overarching obligation to protect everyone from hunger. Protection against forcible diversion of land, water and forests from food production, protection of food sovereignty, safeguard against cash transfers replacing food transfers under any nutrition related scheme, and elimination of entry of corporate interests, private contracts in food production, procurement and distribution system are critical. ( September 23, 2010) Therefore several loopholes need to be plugged to ensure food security through a universal PDS.

However, food insecurity is not just lack of purchasing power, nor can it be measured only in terms of fewer nutrition intakes. (Ray, 2010a and 2010b) Several studies find that malnutrition and hunger need not necessarily be related to poverty (Utsa Patnaik, 2004; Harris, 1992) as decline in the poverty estimate has seen an increasing percentage of malnutrition. Even if the head count ratio of poverty has declined, as claimed by the government, and income poverty is reduced, other forms of poverty exist and its spatial and social characteristics show that certain regions and sections of society are threatened by new forms of vulnerability. Increasing malnutrition, hunger, starvation, distress migration, farmers’ suicides, depleting resources are extreme manifestations of food crises and agrarian crisis. They are symptomatic of the development processes and policies that have over the decades created conditions of denial of basic needs and rights to the marginalised. While higher economic growth and an increasing investment in the social sector changes the ranking of the State in the development index, an empirical analysis of the living conditions of the tribals in the study villages of Kalahandi in southern region of Orissa reveals that it has failed to change the disadvantageous situation of the landless and marginalised. It is significant to note that the process of impoverishment and famishment has not been arrested. (See also Ray, 2010c: 21-26) The actual figures of poverty have been contested because of the errors in the methodology to estimate poverty. (Sen, 1985: 669-76 and 2006; Dreze and Sen, 1989: 13-15; Harriss, 1992: 16, 28; U. Patnaik, 2004, 2010: 42 and 2011: 10; P. Patnaik, 2010: 33; Mehrotra and Mander, 2009: 38-40; Dreze and Khera, 2010: 54-63; Haub and Sharma, 2010; Karat, 2011a: 10; Swaminathan, 2011b: 12; Spicker, Leguizamon and Gordon, 2007: 33; Saxena Committee Report, 2009; Tendulkar Committee Report, 2009; Sengupta Committee Report, 2008; see also Gupta, 2011: 11)

THE recent affidavit by the Planning Commission based on the National Social Survey Organisation (NSSO) and Tendulkar Committee findings3 stated that a person is poor only if the monthly expenditure is below Rs 781 in the rural areas and Rs 965 in the urban areas. This comes to Rs 26 and Rs 32 per day respectively. [This affidavit was in response to the court order advising the Commission to update the Below Poverty Line (BPL) norms to reflect prices as on May 2011).]4 Critiques point out that it exposes how unrealistic the ‘poverty lines’ are. (Patnaik, 2011: 10) Surveys and studies conducted all over the country have found large scale exclusion and inclusion errors in the methodology used in the below poverty line (BPL) Census in 1992, 1997 and 2002. This has resulted in further errors in selecting households for certain schemes and programmes of the Ministry of Rural Development and the State Government. However, the Planning Commission has recently clarified that the beneficiaries of several programmes will be decided by using different parts of the data generated by the ‘Socio-Economic and Caste Census’ completed by the year end, and households will be automatically excluded and included and the rest will be ranked according to indicators of deprivation based on seven indicators5 which will be the basis for prioritising households for different programmes. (Mihir Shah, Member, Planning Commission, M.S. Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, and Jairam Ramesh, Rural Development Minister. See also Parsai, 2011d:1)

While the Planning Commission states that the data of the ‘Socio-Economic and Caste Census’ would be verified in the Gram Sabha and also placed in the website to ensure a transparent and participatory process, experiences in the past show that despite the 73rd Amendment which aims at transferring power and authority to the local people at the grassroots by involving them in planning and implementing poverty alleviation and development programmes, in practice the Panchayati Raj Institutions have become implementing agencies of plans and policies of the Centre as well as the States which reinforce the top-down approach of development. The local experiences in Kalahandi district in Orissa, Bhojpur district in Bihar and Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh tell us that the structural deprivations continue to deprive the poor further from participating in decision-making at the Gram Sabhas/Palli Sabhas. (Mohanty, Ray, Trivedi and Sukumar, 2011: 236) The nexus between the dominant landowning class, moneylenders and the middlemen, who are often supporters of political parties, results in manipulation of the decisions regarding implementation of development activities and the selection of beneficiaries of the poverty alleviation schemes.

Our field experiences suggest that the old network of patronage based on class, caste, gender and ethnicity is still intact and works as a shield against any real democratic empo-werment of the deprived sections of the society. We came across several such instances in course of our field visits where the landowning class, invariably belonging to the upper caste, influences the decisions of the Palli Sabhas and panchayats. The beneficiaries of several poverty alleviation programmes are decided in the Palli Sabhas by the dominant castes. The sarpanch representing the tribals and Dalits as well as the women ward members have no voice in the decisions taken.

Will the subsidised foodgrains ensure that women and children consume the required amount of nutrients? The structural inequalities and biases are major impediments which need to be removed. Where people have no access and entitlement to any kind of food for bare sustenance and eat edible roots and wild plants which have toxic elements, where no health care and no drinking water facilities exists, focus on micro- and macro-nutrients and calories, and the provision for subsidised foodgrains will benefit little to the target groups as in Kalahandi and elsewhere. Therefore, what pose even a greater challenge for the policy-makers and need to be addressed to guarantee the basic right to food are the conditions which generate and perpetuate hunger and starvation for some sections of society irrespective of the levels of food production, food prices, growth and development. Without structural change, freedom from hunger will only remain rhetorical.

While food security by definition involves every individual gaining physical, economic, social and environmental access to a balanced diet that includes the necessary macro- and micro-nutrients, safe drinking water, sanitation and environmental hygiene, primary health care and education to lead a healthy and productive life (Swaminathan, 2009:13), it is imperative to locate the problem of hunger in the structural process that have denied access to such needs. Though the universal PDS is a step towards ensuring food security, it is significant to address the structural causes of deprivation which deny the poor control over the productive resources, labour and produce of their labour.


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1. Despite being a non-targeted programme the MGNREGS has benefited the contractors and officials and not the deprived and marginalised. In Kalahandi district, the study in 2008-09 in the four villages finds several loopholes in the implementation of the NREGA such as financial bungling, fake muster rolls, fake job card entries and wage payments, denial of unemployment allowances, no social audit, and other kinds of discriminations in providing work. (Mohanty, Ray, Trivedi and Sukumar, 2011: 234-235) A sample survey by Jean Dreze, on the NREGA work in Orissa conducted by the G.B. Pant Social Science Institute of Allahabad University in a total of 30 GPs—five from each of the six Blocks randomly selected from three districts, Kalahandi, Bolangir and Boudh, finds that the large-scale incidence of corruption threatened to derail the entire programme. A survey conducted on the working of the NREGA by the Centre for Environment and Food Security during May-June, 2007 in 100 sample villages in Koraput, Nabarangpur, Rayagada, Kalahandi, Nuapada and Bolangir in the KBK districts in Orissa and in the district of Sidhi in eastern border of Madhya Pradesh during December 2007–January 2008 has similar findings. (Study by the Centre for Environment and Food Security in KBK, 2008)

2. In its interim report tabled in the State Legislature, the Committee of the House on Drought and Other Natural Calamities (1987) opined that the food habits of the people of a region should be considered while assessing any distress on account of drought. The relief through the PDS has only taken into account rice and wheat, which is mainly consumed by the affluent sections of society. The scheme ignored the requirement of the SC and ST population. (See also Jayal, 1999)

3. As per the Tendulkar Committee Report, the per capita expenditure to consume 2100 and 2400 calories per day was Rs 20 and Rs 15 for the urban and rural areas respectively. From the 2009-10 NSS data at least 75 per cent of the total population is in poverty on the basis officially accepted nutritional norms. (Swaminathan, 2011: 10)

4. The poverty line will vary from State to State because of price differentials and will come in after NSS Survey 2011-12. (Parsai, 2011b: 1)

5. The seven deprivations will be indicated on a scale from minimum ‘zero to seven’ where the order of the BPL list will be from the largest number of deprivations to the smallest number. These include households with only one room with kucha walls and roof, female headed households with no adult male member between 16 to 59 years of age, households with a disabled member, SC and ST households with no literate adult above 25 years of age, and landless households earning a major part of their income from manual casual labour. (Also see Gupta, 2011: 11)

Suranjita Ray teaches Political Science at Daulat Ram College, University of Delhi. She can be contacted at

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